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The Butterfly Lovers
The Butterfly Lovers
Actors: Carrie Ng, Wolfgang Gasser, Ludwig Hirsch, Judith Holzmeister, Michaela May
Directors: Tsui Hark, Xaver Schwarzenberger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
UR     2005     1hr 35min

In 3 a.D. during the eastern jin dynasty parents dress a very pretty very privileged girl like a boy so she may be educated in a local boarding school. There she falls in love with a poor but handsome & industrous young ma...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Carrie Ng, Wolfgang Gasser, Ludwig Hirsch, Judith Holzmeister, Michaela May
Directors: Tsui Hark, Xaver Schwarzenberger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Tai Seng
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Animated,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/15/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Cantonese, English
Subtitles: Chinese, English

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Movie Reviews

Famous Chinese tale of thwarted lovers animated for children
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 01/21/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)

"THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS is based on the famous love story of male student Liang Shan-bo and his classmate, Zhu Yingtai, a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to gain entrance to the academy at a time in China's history (first century A.D.) when schools were not open to girls. Zhu falls in love with Liang and eventually tells him the truth about herself. When they make plans to marry, her parents intervene and pick another husband, a man from a highly connected noble family. Tragic results ensue.

I happened to see this Taiwanese animated version right after seeing two earlier Hong Kong live-action film versions of the same story, LOVE ETERNE (1963), directed by Li Han-hsiang, and THE LOVERS (1994), directed by Tsui Hark. LOVE ETERNE is told in the Huangmei Opera style, where part of the dialogue is sung (and the male role is played by an actress, Ivy Ling Po), while THE LOVERS is more of a straightforward love story, with two pop singers of the time, a male and a female, Nicky Wu and Charlie Yeung, playing the lead roles. Both films are spectacular tearjerkers.

I wish I could say that the newer animated film compares favorably, but it doesn't. Its first hour seems to owe more to the Disney model than to Asian animation styles and makes changes in the story to make it more palatable to very young children, including several slapstick sequences, buffoonish cartoon villains, and cutesy animals that do funny things. The lead characters have their names pointlessly anglicized in the subtitles to read "Leon" instead of Liang and "Jo" instead of Zhu. While the design for these two characters is sleek and elegant (even if Jo looks a little too much like Disney's Mulan for my tastes), the other characters are too cartoonish to serve the drama well. Ma Wen Cai, the man to whom Zhu is promised, is hardly seen in the live-action versions, while he becomes a major character here and is painted as an unscrupulous bad guy, always accompanied by three goofy henchmen. The lead characters' servants are not terribly well designed either. These are important characters but they become silly kids here (complete with a kissing scene that is wildly out of place).

The last half-hour adopts a more serious tone as the tragic elements of the tale kick in. Despite a watered-down ending with an abundance of schmaltz, this section is actually more moving and satisfying than anything in the rest of the film. The pain and grieving of the two lovers is adequately expressed and the imagery is often quite beautiful. (The animation is 2-D digital animation, which means that no paint was used--all the coloring and linework were done by computer.)

The score relies on the deeply affecting violin concerto, "The Butterfly Lovers," by Chen Gang and He Zhan Hao, which also provided the score for Tsui Hark's 1994 film. However, the filmmakers here feel the need to punch up the soundtrack with pop songs sung by one or both of the two lead voice actresses, Taiwanese pop singers Elva Hsiao and Rene Liu.

The film was released in Taiwan at the end of 2003, not 1995 as listed above."
Surface-Level Beauty ...
BlaskoFilms | Coon Rapids, MN United States | 01/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The Butterfly Lovers re-imagines a classic Chinese folktale for a new generation, but, sad to say, it falls a bit short of enchantment. If you take a chance on purchasing it, you probably won't be disappointed with the animation, but I doubt you'll return to it often. To this animation aficionado, The Butterfly Lovers suffers from the same maladies as the majority of Dreamworks animated films - technically-accomplished animation that tries desperately to support scripts that lack both eloquence and substance. In the end, the film is just the culmination of dutiful animators, not passionate artists. It's missing its living spirit, and the magic is easily broken.